Sunday, June 12, 2011

French Macarons

There's "macaroons," which is a coconut pastry. Then there's "Macarons," which is an almond-meringue based French pastry. Its 2 almond meringue cookies with a creamy filling sandwiched in between them. But don't let the French hear you call it a cookie. The first time I've ever had French Macarons was when I saw these beautiful, bite-sized morsels in the frozen section at my local Trader Joe's. Yes, I tasted my first French Macaron frozen. And it was delicious. And since then, whenever I encounter Macarons at any bakery, its a must that I order them.

I've seen a few bloggers make Macarons, and they all say how tricky it can be. The recipes I've seen look pretty intimidating, which is why I've delayed my attempt to make them. But I really wanted to make them. So I decided on this recipe from the King Arthur Flour website. The recipe had step-by-step instructions that included photos which made it a bit easier for me.

I wasn't too happy with the end result, however. My cookies didn't have the "feet" on its bottom, which is the fuzzy ring that develops on the bottom from baking. However, the flavors were almost there. I used the vanilla buttercream from my Vanilla Bean cupcake recipe. I'm definitely going to attempt this monster again and play around with different fillings. But for now, since this was a trial run, I wanted to keep the filling simple.

4 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) almond flour or almond meal
4 ounces (about 1 cup) confectioner's sugar
3 large egg whites
a pinch of salt
a pinch of cream of tartar
3 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. water
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar

1) Pour almond flour and confectioner's sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Process for about 20 seconds. Sift mixture through a sieve to remove any large pieces and aerate the mixture. Set aside.

2) In the bowl of an electric mixer, add egg whites, pinch of salt and pinch of cream of tartar. Set aside.

3) In a small saucepan, combine sugar and water. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to a rapid boil. Boil for about 2 minutes. The temperature should be between 235-240 deg F. Remove from heat.

4) Immediately start whipping egg whites on high speed until they hold a soft peak at the end of the beater. Then pour hot syrup steadily into egg whites. Stop mixer to scrape the sides of the bowl halfway through pouring the syrup. Continue beating on high speed and steadily pouring syrup. Beat until meringue is smooth, glossy and form soft peaks.

5) Fold in almond flour mixture and stir until well incorporated. Continue stirring with a spatula until the batter runs in ribbons that disappear back into the mass in about 10-20 seconds. Test frequently until you reach this point.

6) Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat, parchment paper, or aluminum foil. Use a teaspoon to place a generous amount of batter on the baking sheet to test consistency. Gently tap the baking sheet to slightly flatten the batter. If the it doesn't flatten out, stir the batter some more. Once the desired consistency has been reached, use a piping bag to deposit a generous amount of batter (about a teaspoon size) on the baking sheet, about an inch apart from each other. Gently tap the baking sheet. Allow to rest for about 2 hours until you can gently touch the tops and come away with a clean finger.

7) Toward the end of resting time, preheat oven to 275 deg F. Bake for 25-30 minutes until firm on top. Cool completely before removing from baking sheet. Use vanilla buttercream to sandwich in between two cookies. Place assembled macarons in an airtight container and store in refrigerator for 2 days.

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